I pick up my toothbrush at 9:10 p.m., see the round black scab on my cheek in the mirror, imagine someone asking, and compose a reply:
This thing growing on my face was either leprosy or cancer so I showed the dermatologist and she dismissed it with a wave of her hand. That’s just a—no, wait: “showed the dermatologist” period. New sentence: She dismissed it with a flip of her fingers. That’s just a barnacle, a gift from your parents. But it’s on my face, I protested, so she got her nitrogen gun and zapped it for me.
I rehearse this story several times, tweaking sentences, adding stress to “face.” I wish I’d stop writing trivial shit in my head all the time. I peer closely at the scab, consider picking at it.
In the park yesterday, I picked my way through geese, never drive 23rd anymore without seeing five or six long V-formations of Canada geese, flying from lake to golf course and back. At least our roof is mostly done. Only Mexicans do steep roofs like ours and if Trump’s elected, he’ll send them all back. First of February and the tips of branches have already swelled with burgundy buds. Yesterday I walked in shirtsleeves, but today it’s snowing: trees, what are you thinking?
I should wear something to go with boots, but hope it’s a snow day tomorrow, hope I sleep O.K. tonight. Last night my brain wouldn’t shut up. Things I found solutions for between ten when we shut off the light and midnight when I finally fell asleep:
An assignment for next week’s class
Solution to a translation problem I blanked on during the day
The writing and revision of a paragraph for my blog, which was brilliant and which vanished by morning
I’d given up on having anything to make for dinner tonight but suddenly saw the ingredients on my shelves and didn’t need to go to the store after all
I failed to figure out why Trump and Cruz supporters hate everyone not like themselves, but brooded on it at length
In spite of falling asleep late, I startled awake at 5:20 from a dream in which a student was begging me for a sip of my coffee so I finally gave in and his mouth opened wide to gag over the cup, which he then handed back and walked away, undigested food chunks floating in it. Calling Dr. Jung. So what? I offer them nectar of the gods and they give me back crap? Dreams love clichéd metaphors, the nastier the better.
January 2016 was hard: deaths and illnesses among the famous and our friends. Mom said bad news comes in threes. She never said anything about good news. Now I think it’s like the title of a poem I read recently, “whatever it is, it comes in waves.” Can we absorb one more cancer discovery? When Phil turned 70, Judy, who scouts the trail a few steps ahead of us, told him confidently: “70 is when it all starts to fall apart.” This is the last third, maybe the last quarter. How long do I have? If I knew I was dying at 86, say, as my mother did, would I stop screwing around and write the Great American Novel now? Did I get the towels out of the dryer? Going back downstairs to check is too much to ask. I forgot to change that kid’s grade. Why do I remember after I’ve shut down the laptop?
It was Monday and I didn’t sleep well, I explain to myself. Remembering that I only teach one class and chose to do so didn’t matter this morning. I grumped getting up (to age is to whine, says Alameddine) sulked over breakfast even though my nine a.m. class gives me time for breakfast and fussed over having to leave early because I meant to get treats for the office staff—those hardworking secretaries who make teachers’ lives possible—rushed out of the house, stood in the inevitable line waiting for the vanilla frap I knew the student working the front desk wanted, resenting the snow too wimpy to give me the day off.
But then I dropped those goodies in the office, received hugs and happiness for unexpected treats and each banana bread I set down made me lighter. We were doing a prompt and one of my students said, “I love doing these.” They went to work on their stories and for an hour, there was no sound but the clicking of computer keys. Such fine kids! I floated to my car afterwards in light snow, delighted with their writing on the prompt, and thought, what in God’s name was all that stupid whining about?
Still snowing at 9:22 p.m. I wash my face, pick at the black scab on my cheek. It’ll fall off in another day or two and then I won’t have to explain anything. No one asked me about it today. That sort of hurt my feelings. I hope I sleep better tonight. Please don’t tell me that’s the neighbor’s dog barking again. Wait, did I brush my teeth? Touch the bristles: they’re wet. O.K., I’m good.